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#57: How to Run Innovation Sessions with Bill Gates to Solve World Problems?

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In this episode Nataraj spoke to Taylor Black who co-founded Fizzy Inc. Post Fizzy Taylor worked at Innovation Science Fund & currently works as a Principal Product Manager at the Office of the CTO Incubator at Microsoft.


[00:00:00] Nataraj: I looked at the portfolio there then

it’s completely deep tech, uh, and sort of like invention based, uh, ideas.

[00:00:08] Nataraj: Uh, so what was the process of like

capturing and invention and taking and productizing it and, you know, making a

return out of it? Like what was the thinking process there?

[00:00:20] Taylor: So the, uh, and you can read Malcolm

Gladwell’s take on this in a, in an article where he described our invention

sessions. Um, a and the invention sessions are a bit of a riff on like an

innovation session or an envisioning session or things along those lines where

you, you come up with wild ideas within a particular problem space, um, in a

very unfettered sort of, Um, and the whole goal of this session is to generate

as many ideas as possible.

[00:00:52] Taylor: That’s the sole ROI you’re looking for

in those sessions. Um, but there’s certain conditions you set for success in

those [00:01:00] sessions. And so the way that

we ran those sessions, and I, and I, I ran, uh, a number of them, um, is that

we would prepare for months ahead of time in gathering all of the materials

that related to the problem.

[00:01:14] Taylor: and by materials I mean the scientific

research in a particular problem space, the, uh, market, uh, and startup landscapes

of that particular problem space. Um, uh, things that people had written about

it. Books, articles, um, you know, YouTube videos, everything, uh, along those

lines. And the goal was to, um, inform.

[00:01:43] Taylor: Kind of the fermentation moment of

when you’re thinking about a problem, all of these things w wouldn’t

themselves, um, not be a solution necessarily, but there are all the things

that someone who wanted to be completely informed or as, as, as informed and

possible as possible about a set of [00:02:00]

problems. Um, Had all of the raw material there.

[00:02:03] Taylor: We’d also do customer discovery, we’d

do customer interviews to understand those pain points. We’d bring people in,

um, uh, and run sessions with them where they would, you know, get deep into

their own, um, the problems they were encountering so that everybody who is,

and everybody who’s part of the sessions had to.

[00:02:22] Taylor: Understand those materials, uh,

deeply. We’d even quiz them on occasion. Um, it also helped that, uh, bill

Gates, um, uh, whenever he came to those sessions, he would have all of those

materials like completely groced. And so you, you know, you needed to have them

groced too so that you didn’t, you know, uh, lose face in front of Bill.

[00:02:44] Taylor: But, um, Uh, but the key, so we’d,

we’d get everybody, all of those materials and have them go through them, uh, a

good month or so before the actual sessions happened. Um, that gave everybody

an, an even playing [00:03:00] field in terms

of, you know, I may be a physicist, I may be a biz dev person, I may be, um, an


[00:03:06] Taylor: I may be, uh, you know, a program

manager, but I have all of the same raw material. Uh, and my own perspective on

it that I can bring to these sessions. The sessions themselves, them, um, were

set around particular problem spaces and we’d start, we’d start each, um,

session and then there’s a variety of different kinds of sessions that we ram.

[00:03:28] Taylor: Um, Uh, with a lot of provocations, a

lot of conversation, a lot of like wild thinking and post-it notes and

whiteboards of just dumping ideas out, uh, that had occurred to people or

occurred in conversation or happened in the, in the hallway outside. Um, and we

get all those ideas down, documenting everything.

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